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How Collecting Action Figures Made Me a Better Writer

Yeah. I never really grew up.

I give a good impression of being a responsible adult, though. I’m happily married, pay my bills, and remember to clean out the fridge before fuzzy green civilizations start hailing me as the Bringer of Light.

Yet, I collect action figures. I had some when I was a little girl, to be sure. I had the 1970’s Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll. I had a handful of GI Joes that wound up using Barbie’s Dream House as their command center. But the things that I most avidly collected were He-Man and She-Ra action figures. My brother and I staged epic wars on snow days when we tore the cushions off the couch and set them up as forts and canyons on the floor. We turned the dog into an armored personnel carrier (he was a very patient Good Dog). And the Christmas that Castle Greyskull arrived under the tree…OMG. Epic rejoicing.

This was my first exposure to fantasy as a genre. Seriously! I grew up in a pretty rural area, a place where there were no sci-fi conventions or channels beyond basic cable. Magic swords and green tigers and winged horses…oh, my. This was completely accessible to kids, and I reveled in it.

Especially She-Ra. I already owned Teela, Evil-Lyn, and many of the male figures from the He-Man group. But I was super-excited to see a line of female figures. She-Ra was their leader, the sister of He-Man and the most powerful woman in the universe. This was pretty revolutionary for the time – powerful girls in charge of the storyline and saving the world! I tuned in to watch She-Ra’s adventures ever day after school, wishing that I had my own flying horse and magic sword. But I made do with my pink plastic sword and the family dog (again, the long-suffering dog who was less than thrilled about being dressed in construction-paper wings).

These toys helped me think about the world in a different “what-if” way. What if life and adventure were really unlimited, and I could create and defend the ideals I chose? What kinds of heroines could I develop with my own crayons, magic markers, and pens? What if there really were no rules about how a heroine “should” be?

I remembered that, the feeling of no limits. And I keep some reminders around. Through the miracle of eBay, I’ve gathered together quite a few action figures. I remember a lot of them from my past, but others are new to me. Having them around forces me not to take myself too seriously.

And they also remind me that there aren’t any limits. They keep me in touch with that childlike wonder. And the possibilities are all mine…even if they are covered in pink glitter.

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